September 9, 2009

BLT From Scratch

BLT 1

The challenge: make a BLT from scratch by growing the tomato, growing the lettuce, curing the bacon, baking the bread, and making the mayonnaise. The result: a delicious sandwich that took all summer to make but was worth the wait!

The Components

The lettuce is a mix of several varieties. The tomatoes include beefsteak and green zebra. Due to a combination of weak soil, too much shade, and too little summer sun in the Pacific Northwest, the tomato crop in my garden was unfortunately small. Tasty, though. The bacon was straight-forward--I smoked it lightly with applewood. The mayonnaise includes some whole grain mustard. And then there's the bread.

BLT 5

The bread has been the most interesting part of the challenge for me. I've tweaked bread all summer long, looking for an elusive flavor, all the while working from Ruhlman's ratio of 20 ounces of flour, 12 ounces of water, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast. I've finally gotten really close to what I want.

First, I put 1-2 tablespoons of wheat berries into a cup of water to soak overnight. Meanwhile, I mixed an ounce (or so) each of millet, oat, semolina, whole wheat, and light rye flours with enough unbleached bread flour to come to 16 total ounces. I proofed a generous ½ teaspoon of active dry yeast in a cup of warm water, then added that and another ½ cup of water to the flour mixture along with a tablespoon of honey, mixed well, and let it grow. Once the pre-dough showed good signs of life, I put it into the refrigerator for overnight fermentation.

The next day, I took the pre-dough out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature while I cooked the wheat berries for about an hour, until they began to crack open. Then I drained the berries and added them to the pre-dough along with ½ cup toasted pecans, 4 ounces of unbleached bread flour, 2 teaspoons of fleur de sel, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and six cloves of garlic confit. I used the trusty stand mixer to knead the dough for about ten minutes, then covered it and let it rise until doubled. Finally, I punched it down, formed it, let it proof, then baked it.

This was a fun and rewarding challenge. The sandwich was juicy and very tasty. I've learned a lot, and have even convinced a friend to cure her own bacon rather than buy it!

Now, is anyone up for Mac 'n Cheese from scratch?

16 comments:

  1. Ha - I just posted about my dire bread making experiments for the BLT challenge. Luckily a friend who CAN make bread from scratch is helping out!!

    http://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/2009/09/adventures-in-bread-baking.html

    Yours looks wonderful btw - congrats!!!!

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  2. Thanks, and good luck on your entry.

    It certainly was an interesting challenge, and it was worth every moment I spent on it, if for no other reason than that I now know just how good bacon can taste!

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  3. That's a great looking sandwich! Friday is d-day for my BLT, which is going to be so simple comapared to most people's it's hysterical. But hey, I'm a home cook, not a chef, so I'm very proud of myself. The lettuce has been the hardest part for me - too hot for lettuce until recently but now the tomatoes are on their last legs just as the weather's cooling. I ended up growing a few sad little sprigs in a pot. LOL Just enough for one BLT!

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  4. BTW - I am TOTALLY for mac and cheese from scratch. I need a new project. Now you have to teach me how to make cheese! :)

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  5. Thanks! I didn't do anything fancy for my BLT. For that matter, it doesn't look like Ruhlman did anything fancy either. I had to buy more lettuce starts a few weeks ago because the first lettuce had gone way past prime. The tomatoes were pitiful this year. I have one heirloom plant that has one tiny little incipient tomato and that's it! Oh well, I got one whole and one half sandwich, which made a great lunch for two.

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  6. Okay. I'm thinking next Labor Day would be a good end date, because you really need up to a year to finish the cheese. Even a simple white goat cheddar takes at least a month of aging.

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  7. Your BLT looks great. I first found out about the challenge from your blog and took it up even though I'm Vegetarian. I decided to make a completely Vegan BLT. Its not easy not being able to use real bacon but it tasted great.

    Heres my version of the BLT

    http://www.cmacskitchen.com/2009/09/atlast-the-blt-from-scratch/

    Even though your sight is far from vegetarian I've gotten a lot of inspiration in the past from your recipes.

    Thanx

    Cmac

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  8. Thanks!

    I tried to be a vegetarian once, but it didn't last a whole day. Still, I like to explore vegetarian and vegan options because restricted diets often lead to great inspirations. Besides, I need to eat more veggies.

    Be sure to check the link on the sidebar to a post on making tofu. I'm going to try it in the near future, but it looks really easy.

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  9. BLT's hold a special place in my heart. Something about the salt of the bacon with the freshness of the tomato and crisp crunch of lettuce all set off by creamy silky mayo. So simple yet flawless. Your has certainly been turned up a notch and puts a fresh face on an old fave. I look forward to trying. The green tomatoes look fantastic! Reminds me of growing up in the south. Nothing like 'em.
    Thanks for the post!
    Best,
    Jessica
    www.justchowbella.com

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  10. PS. BRING ON THE MAC AND CHEESE! We lived in Portland for a while and I still salivate over the thought of the mac and cheese from La Bistro Montage. I would just LOVE a new recipe for one of my all time favorites.

    Best,
    Jessica
    www.justchowbella.com

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  11. I think maybe there may be enough interest to do a challenge, but it'll need a fair amount of time or everyone will have to use fresh cheese. After all, buying cheese wouldn't be in the true spirit of making it from scratch. ;)

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  12. Gareth, your sandwich looks great! I fully intended to join Ruhlman's challenge (my lack of photography skills notwithstanding), then it just got away from me. (Maybe next year, I'll just challenge myself - the competition is a little easier!)

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  13. Thanks! It was worth the effort, not because it was a special sandwich, although it was, but because it was so very satisfying to have made or grown everything I was eating while I enjoyed it.

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  14. The Mac and Cheese from scratch challenge would be great, I wouldn't have to explain to my wife why I'm spending so much time on it because Mac & cheese is her favorite. I'm gonna make a Gouda this weekend and maybe in a month or so smoke it for the challenge :).

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  15. Gareth,

    I wanted to let you know that I nominated you for best new blog.

    I love your blog!

    Christine

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  16. Thank you! I'm honored that you took the time to nominate me.

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